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Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?
February 17, 2013 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Gallup surveyed U.S. adults in the 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine how many self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The GLBT percentage was highest in D.C. (10%) and lowest in North Dakota (1.7%). All the states were within 2 percentage points of the nationwide average of 3.5%. The states with proportionally larger LGBT populations generally have supportive LGBT legal climates. With the exception of South Dakota, all of the states that have LGBT populations of at least 4% have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and allow same-sex couples to marry, enter into a civil union, or register as domestic partners. Of the 10 states with the lowest percentage of LGBT adults, only Iowa has such laws.
posted by Area Man (53 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wish they had also asked where LGBT identified people primarily grew up. It would be interesting to see if there was any significant variation there.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:20 PM on February 17, 2013 [23 favorites]


Now is this because people move to states where they have equal rights or is it because higher population percentages have better luck fighting for equal rights?
posted by Mitheral at 7:21 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


It would be interesting to compare the rates of self-reporting with other potential metrics (I have no idea what they might be, but for example, rates of download of LGBT porn or something). The latter divided by the former might be termed the 'closet factor'.
posted by unSane at 7:33 PM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


We may have some type of chicken and egg situation going on here. Are less people in Iowa gay, or do all the gay people in Iowa get a clue and bug the hell out?
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 7:34 PM on February 17, 2013


Andrew Gelman blogged about the somewhat misleading statistics here.
posted by escabeche at 7:35 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Andrew Gelman blogged about the somewhat misleading statistics here.

The margin of error seems to range between 1 and 6 percentage points (leaving DC out of it). The number of people reporting being LGBT is small enough that I'm not sure what we can conclude from ordering the states. Well, I suppose we can look at DC and guess queer people migrate to cities somewhat more than straight people do.
posted by hoyland at 7:41 PM on February 17, 2013


Percentages obscure the real story here. DC is tiny, relatively speaking, so 10% of the DC population is literally just a handful of people. What they should have computed was gays per mile. By plotting these numbers on a map, we could learn the true extent of the national gay deposits.
posted by Nomyte at 7:43 PM on February 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


So we have harvest them to better extract their precious resources.
posted by The Whelk at 7:45 PM on February 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


I would be the bisexual number is underreported. I think a lot of people who are bisexual but who are in heteronormative relationships consider themselves straight, which I guess is correct when we're talking about self-identification, but it makes the "only 3.5 % of Americans are LGBT" statistic a little shady.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:47 PM on February 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I thought the margins of error were plus or minus 2 percent. Am I missing something?

The South Dakota percentage does seem high. Just a typical polling error or is Sioux Falls a secret gay Mecca?
posted by Area Man at 7:48 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The margins (except for DC) are all less than +/- 2%. How much less, nobody knows. It surely matters though when you're looking at a ranking where the order is based on differences of less than a tenth of a percent.

Also, why the heck does DC have fully twice as high a percentage of gay-identified citizens as any state?
posted by Scientist at 8:00 PM on February 17, 2013


Just a typical polling error or is Sioux Falls a secret gay Mecca?

"There's gays in them thar hills."
posted by The Whelk at 8:03 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, why the heck does DC have fully twice as high a percentage of gay-identified citizens as any state?

Because for generations, DC was where you went to marry your career.
posted by Nomyte at 8:04 PM on February 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


A previous Gallup survey was more interesting, as it was broken down by age: people under 30 identified as LGBT at a rate nearly twice as high: 6.4%. Less than 2% of seniors did. So I doubt that 3.5% is the last word.
posted by zompist at 8:05 PM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Des Moines Iowa's large underground homosexual population is what explains Iowa's outlierness.
posted by aspo at 8:11 PM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Scientist: Also, why the heck does DC have fully twice as high a percentage of gay-identified citizens as any state?

It could be an urban/rural divide—in a list of 50 states and one city, I'm not surprised to find the city viewed separately looking statistically different from states where we're averaging a mixture of rural and urban areas.
posted by JiBB at 8:13 PM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Iowa's large underground homosexual population

Morlocks?
posted by Nomyte at 8:15 PM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, why the heck does DC have fully twice as high a percentage of gay-identified citizens as any state?

DC is not a state, it's a city.
posted by downing street memo at 8:19 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, why the heck does DC have fully twice as high a percentage of gay-identified citizens as any state?

GOP Congressmen
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:19 PM on February 17, 2013 [35 favorites]


There are several things going on with these numbers that people may have trouble understanding.

Firstly, as has been pointed out ad nauseam, this survey measures self-identification. I'm not sure why, but some people get it in their heads that surveys can somehow measure gay people in absolute numbers without self-reporting or something. That's probably impossible.

In other words, 3.5% for self-reported LGBT people is probably about right as a nation-wide self-reported average. That is, the number of people who are willing to stand up on a podium and say "Yes, I am lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans". Of course there are many more people who have experimented or participate in non-heterosexual activity but that is very difficult to measure accurately. Personally, as a gay man, I believe that "gay" is, first and foremost, a way that you perceive yourself and a sexual activity second. I have had sex with men who identify as straight -- and while that seems contradictory to some, I am willing to take them at the word. People can have sex for all kinds of different reasons (curiosity, access to money/power, fame, drugs, survival, etc.) that doesn't really change who they are on the inside. I think the whole idea of "You sucked a dick therefore you are now Gay" comes from decades of homophobia where gayness was treated as some kind of communicable disease that you could get by participating in certain activities. We need to move on from that kind of thinking, IMO.

Also: yes the number of self-identified LGBT is higher for younger folks, and this is a result of growing acceptance among young people. That (and the higher percentage of self-identified LGBT in more tolerant states) suggests that removing discriminatory laws does encourage people to openly identify with what they used to practice in private. In that sense, the conservatives are ironically right: by tolerating homosexuality more, we are subtly encouraging it's expression. They think this is bad. I think it's awesome.
posted by Avenger at 8:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [34 favorites]


I've been interested in these figures since they came out, largely because I was a child of the unquestioned one-in-ten propaganda years, which were largely predicated on the notion that we fegelehs were to be respected for our enormous phalanx. "We're everywhere!" was the clarion call, but honestly, we're not everywhere, and the appeal to value by virtue of numbers has always been a little suspect.

The real numbers have been coming in for years, and the radical right love 'em because they seem to demonstrate that we're not worthy of mass consideration because we're just this tiny aberrant minority...except it doesn't matter how many acculturated, self-identified gay folks there are out there (or elgeebeeteekewkew communitarians, as the kids seem to feel compelled to call themselves these days).

If there were just one little golden lesbian in the whole wide world, wrenching happily on a well-loved Puch Maxi on a warm and sunny day, or just one loafer-lightened lad with a penchant for the lusty life of a hidden language, that sole person would still be worthy of the right to marry some other hypothetical golden lesbian or loafer-lightened lad. The numbers mean nothing, except in the lurking horror of the sexual Drake Equation and the way that we're essentially the Sex Jews, minor in number and major in accomplishment in a proportion that's what our lumbering marketing department-driven Pridefests should be celebrating.

I grew up in a small town tucked in between Baltimore and DC, and the old numbers were always troublesome to me in that I puffed out my chest, declared myself one of the one in ten, but real life didn't bear that out and had the effect of actually making me feel more isolated and distinct rather than less, so it'll be interesting to see where these numbers settle down. That "we are everywhere!" thing works when you've fled your hometown for an urban conglomeration and juiced the numbers, but when you're still happily living where you harken from, it's better to know that yeah, you may be a bit more of a rare bird than you'd been led to believe, but that's okay, too.

I went to my town's peculiar gay/straight-sports-drag-bar for lunch today with an ex and was amused once again by the fact that you've got a place where straight auto mechanics, drag queens out of uniform, old school bikers with a taste for boy time, NSA spooks, gal pals, Fort Meade militarians, mullet-headed lovely lesbeings, and other flavors of humanity all come together to fuck over statisticians everywhere.

That Drake Equation, though—well, dang.
posted by sonascope at 8:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [28 favorites]


I decided a few years ago to always identify as bisexual. Why? Because the only thing that makes bisexuality "weird" is that folks don't 'fess up to it. Really, once we drop our shame and step forward, we'll see that we never really had anything to hide, but our selves.
posted by SPrintF at 8:31 PM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


People can have sex for all kinds of different reasons (curiosity, access to money/power, fame, drugs, survival, etc.) that doesn't really change who they are on the inside. I think the whole idea of "You sucked a dick therefore you are now Gay" comes from decades of homophobia where gayness was treated as some kind of communicable disease that you could get by participating in certain activities. We need to move on from that kind of thinking, IMO.

Truth.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:32 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


100% percent of the population is queer. I don't believe in gay / straight.
posted by victory_laser at 8:42 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sex Jews

dot tumblr dot com
posted by en forme de poire at 8:44 PM on February 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


alternatively: now opening for Bioqueen
posted by en forme de poire at 8:45 PM on February 17, 2013


I keep wondering about this--because i think that queerness precludes such strict identity politics. I think that performative acts and identity work differntly, and performative acts cannot be measured in gallup friendly acts.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:57 PM on February 17, 2013


I think the whole idea of "You sucked a dick therefore you are now Gay" comes from decades of homophobia where gayness was treated as some kind of communicable disease that you could get by participating in certain activities. We need to move on from that kind of thinking, IMO.

I'm drinking Amaro Montenegro on ice. Does that make me gay, or just gross?
posted by Nomyte at 9:06 PM on February 17, 2013




Percentages obscure the real story here. DC is tiny, relatively speaking, so 10% of the DC population is literally just a handful of people. What they should have computed was gays per mile. By plotting these numbers on a map, we could learn the true extent of the national gay deposits.

I'm pretty sure that if you did that, DC's numbers would be way, way more out of proportion to the rest of the nation, actually.

As for the "why" of DC, I'd say that most explanations have hit it pretty well. It's purely urban as opposed to rural, it's extraordinarily career-driven, and it's one of the most liberal (or at least democratic) places in America. It's also got the highest per-capita income in the U.S. (though this is also thrown off by considering DC among state-by-state data, and is at best correlative with the statistics showing gays and lesbians by and large earning higher incomes than straights) and also I believe a higher average education level than any state (again, most likely correlative, though perhaps less so than income. I believe gays and lesbians generally have higher average education levels than straights, though I don't remember where I read that. It jibes with higher income, though.)

Basically, a purely urban district, based around education and career, and highly liberal, as well as highly transigent, allowing for "fresh starts." In self-reported surveys, this is the environment most likely to engender honest self-reporting, as well as among the most welcoming to gays and lesbians (perhaps less so for trans folk, as the town is still very uptight about certain things.)
posted by Navelgazer at 9:27 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sex Jews

Maybe god willing we'll see some conversions for marriage soon.
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Iowa's large underground homosexual population

Morlocks?


Prairie dogs.

Aww.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:59 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think that performative acts and identity work differently

Attraction is a third variable, and doesn't always line up with self-identification or sexual history. Take a man who ranks himself as a two on the Kinsey scale. Regardless of that, and regardless of whether or not he's ever had sex with another man, he might self-identify as straight, gay, bi, asexual or "I don't believe in gay/straight." For that matter, he may not self-identify as male.

We choose what we call ourselves and we choose our partners. It's attraction that's relatively fixed and unchanging, and making choices that line up with the aspects of ourselves that aren't up to us is part of how we learn to live happy lives as adults.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:05 PM on February 17, 2013


Nomyte: "Percentages obscure the real story here. DC is tiny, relatively speaking, so 10% of the DC population is literally just a handful of people."

Let's stop speaking relatively, and start talking in absolute numbers: DC has more people than Vermont or Wyoming, and is within spitting distance of North Dakota.

Yes, there may be 60 Californians for every Washingtonian, but it's erroneous to state that DC is not in the same league as the "real" states.
posted by schmod at 10:18 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


statistics showing gays and lesbians by and large earning higher incomes than straights

Is this true? I feel like I remember some recentish studies that showed otherwise.
posted by naoko at 10:29 PM on February 17, 2013


Let's stop speaking relatively, and start talking in absolute numbers: DC has more people than Vermont or Wyoming, and is within spitting distance of North Dakota.

If you convert the units to queer hogsheads, you'll note that what I wrote simply says "welcome to hamburger."
posted by Nomyte at 10:45 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, why the heck does DC have fully twice as high a percentage of gay-identified citizens as any state?

I think that gay people are more likely to move to states where they are accepted but they are also more likely to move to areas where they are accepted (cities instead of rural areas). D.C. is not out of line compared to other cities like Atlanta, Minneapolis, Boston or Seattle (which each have around 12% each). I don't have any hard evidence for this theory but it makes intuitive sense.
posted by john-a-dreams at 11:05 PM on February 17, 2013


ND is within spitting distance of DC?
posted by item at 2:31 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was a child of the unquestioned one-in-ten propaganda years, which were largely predicated on the notion that we fegelehs were to be respected for our enormous phalanx.

Everyone should respect a fegeleh with an enormous phalanx.


DC has more people than Vermont or Wyoming, and is within spitting distance of North Dakota.

Schmod, I am intrigued by your spitting abilities
posted by louche mustachio at 3:07 AM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are some very peculiar results here, the South Dakota/north Dakota split for example, and Kentucky vs Tennessee, similarly, should not have measurable difference. Arizona being far north of New Mexico is obviously upside down. I think the whole thing is hog wash.
posted by Abinadab at 3:22 AM on February 18, 2013


Actually the map tells the story. all one color.
posted by Abinadab at 3:27 AM on February 18, 2013


It is estimated by Harris Interactive that in the U.S. only 2% of self-identified lesbians and gays will respond to telephone surveys (compared to 3% of general population), but between 6%-7% will do so on Internet surveys. Confirming this finding, a Yahoo survey of its users found 7.1% of adults over age 18 identified as GLBT, totaling 18 million in the U.S.

Studies by Kinsey in 1948 and Janus in 1993 have found bisexuals to represent between 22% to 37% of the population.

Lots of potential for growth there...!
posted by markkraft at 3:27 AM on February 18, 2013


DC also has legalized same-sex marriage, and didn't the Feds recently start easing restrictions on benefits for same-sex domestic partnerships?
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:31 AM on February 18, 2013


It's probably worth noting that it's not uncommon for trans people, post-transition, to blend to the point where not even their doctors know they're trans. Particularly for older women. Many no longer identify as transgender or transsexual and don't consider themselves part of any LGBT minority.

Also,
The London Sex Survey has been released by Time Out London, and almost a quarter of men said they’d had, or would have a same-sex sexual encounter, and more than half of women said the same.

According to the survey, 60% of female respondents said they had had, or would have a same-sex sexual experience, and 23% of men said the same.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:32 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Iowa's large underground homosexual population


"Now Stuart, if you look at the soil around any large U.S. city with a big underground homosexual population - Des Moines, Iowa, perfect example. Look at the soil around Des Moines, Stuart. You can't build on it, you can't grow anything in it. The government says it's due to poor farming. But I know what's really going on, Stuart. I know it's the queers. They're in it with the aliens. They're building landing strips for gay Martians. I swear to God!"
posted by codswallop at 5:07 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many no longer identify as transgender or transsexual and don't consider themselves part of any LGBT minority.

Yep, that's my brother.

But I expect the replacement rate from people recognizing themselves, due to higher acceptance and more and better information and support, is higher than the "graduation" rate. At the same time my brother transitioned, I recognized myself as genderqueer and maintained the balance.
posted by Foosnark at 5:16 AM on February 18, 2013


It is estimated by Harris Interactive that in the U.S. only 2% of self-identified lesbians and gays will respond to telephone surveys (compared to 3% of general population), but between 6%-7% will do so on Internet surveys. Confirming this finding, a Yahoo survey of its users found 7.1% of adults over age 18 identified as GLBT, totaling 18 million in the U.S.

I was going to say that this is easy to correct for if you do your survey right. Democrats don't pick up the phone either, so you keep calling until you find Democrats. Except that doesn't quite work if you're trying to count the number of Democrats (or queer people)...

DC also has legalized same-sex marriage, and didn't the Feds recently start easing restrictions on benefits for same-sex domestic partnerships?

I question how much of an impact this has. Like someone said, 10% is not out of line for cities with large queer populations. Wikipedia has San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Boston at over 10% (they have DC at 8.1%), precisely two of which have marriage and I doubt many people have moved to Seattle in the last three months purely because they have marriage. (Though I'm sure Microsoft, say, uses it to try and get people to take their job rather than a Bay Area job.) Overall, I kind of doubt people would move somewhere purely for marriage rights (enforced anti-discrimination laws, yes), but then I don't much care about marriage and I live somewhere where marriage is supposedly in the pipeline (I don't really believe it, but a bill in the legislature is apparently imminent and they seem to err on the side of not doing anything until it will succeed).
posted by hoyland at 5:31 AM on February 18, 2013


Overall, I kind of doubt people would move somewhere purely for marriage rights

Anecdote, I know two people who changed countries for the right to get married.
posted by The Whelk at 6:20 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I knew a gay couple with a kid who moved states several years ago. Like anyone, they considered lots of things in deciding whether to move and where, but the state of the laws was an important factor. They didn't consider the present legality of marriage (I'm not sure it was then legal in any U.S. state), but I remember discussing when we thought different states would come around. (I gave them my then pessimistic assessment of our chances in Minnesota. I now feel more optimistic about the medium-term future, though I am skeptical about it happening this year.)

Obviously, Marriage isn't everything. Fort Dodge, Iowa isn't suddenly filled with gay couples. But it can be important to some couples. Moreover, the legality of gay marriage may serve as a general indicator that the state in question isn't as homophobic as some other states, particularly if it happened in a referendum or through legislative action. To someone deciding where to move after college or weighing competing job offers that could be important.
posted by Area Man at 6:53 AM on February 18, 2013


so, are conservatives less likely to be gay or just more likely to lie about it / suppress it?
posted by superuser at 8:41 AM on February 18, 2013


Nomyte: "..., so 10% of the DC population is literally just a handful of people."

You must have a very large hand.

The Whelk: "There's gays in them thar hills."

Wrong side of the state.
posted by achrise at 10:26 AM on February 18, 2013


I'd love to see a related study looking at the general likelihood of someone to admit they're glbt in a survey like that, in an attempt to figure out how much underreporting is going on. Also, of course, the "do you identify as" vs "do you engage in behavior as" dichotomy.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:02 AM on February 19, 2013


I thought the margins of error were plus or minus 2 percent. Am I missing something?

Perhaps someone who has studied statistics more recently than I can fill in more details, but my understanding is that as a general rule of thumb, the margin of error, if it were to be expressed as an absolute number of respondents, is about the square root of the number of respondents. So a sample of 1000 people would have a margin of error of about sqrt(1000) ≈ 31 people = 3.1% of the original sample, hence a 3.1% margin of error. To achieve a 2% margin of error would require a sample of ~2500 people, and many of the state samples are well below that.

(Side note: as a technical term in statistics, "margin of error" refers to possible error only due to a random sample not accurately reflecting the whole. It is not intended to measure many other reasons why the survey might not accurately reflect reality, several of them mentioned in comments above.)

In fact, the article itself is inconsistent on the issue. The main body states:
The margin of error for each state's estimate varies, depending on the state's sample size. Except for the District of Columbia, all are below ±2 percentage points.
But if you scroll down to the "Survey Methods" box at the bottom, it says:
Margins of error for individual states are no greater than ±6 percentage points, and are ±3 percentage points in most states. The margin of error for the District of Columbia is ±6 percentage points.
The latter reflects my understanding of margin of error. I'm not sure where the former statement is coming from.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:23 PM on February 19, 2013


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